Seminar: Hostages of Empire: The daily life of African prisoners of war interned in Vichy France

Seminar Sarah Frank
Service Historique de la Défense, R5133(5), ‘La propagande du gouvernement de Vichy et La Croix Rouge. Les Œuvres sociales’.

When France went to war in 1939, it mobilized the empire as it had done in the previous world war. Colonial subjects and citizens from diverse French territories in Africa, Indochina, Madagascar, and the French West Indies were again called to arms. After France’s defeat after only six weeks of fighting, some 85,000 of these colonial soldiers were among the 1.8 million prisoners of war captured by the German army. Unlike their French counterparts who, upon capture, were brought to Germany, the colonial prisoners of war (or CPOWs) were interned in camps throughout Occupied France, called Frontstalags. This decision to keep CPOWs in France defined not only their experiences of captivity, but also how the French and German authorities reacted to them. The Frontstalags rapidly became a colonial enclave on French territory. This afforded the men the opportunity to renegotiate hierarchies and interact with men from other parts of the Empire. Some remained loyal to France, others cultivated relations with the German guards in exchange for better food, most simply tried to survive. All of them suffered cold, food shortages, difficult work, solitude and isolation with little news from home. This paper presents a social history of the CPOWs’ experiences of captivity and French efforts to improve it by examining their health, work, and living conditions.

Portrait Sarah Frank

Sarah Frank is a postdoctoral research fellow with the International Studies Group at the University of the Free State in South Africa. She is a social historian of the French Empire and the Second World War, with a specific focus on captivity.  Sarah received her PhD (History) from Trinity College, Dublin in 2015. She has an M.Phil in Modern Irish History also from Trinity College, Dublin and a B.A. in French and History from Hamilton College, Clinton, NY.

Date, time and location

20 April 2017
15.30 - 17.00
Pieter de la Courtgebouw / Faculty of Social Sciences, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden
Room 5A29 (5th floor)


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